Summer is winding down and Fall will shortly be upon us. What a wonderful whirlwind August turned out to be. As our wonderful writers celebrate the month of Ramadan, they have also been busy composing and reporting. Seeta's piece about a new venture by brave women journalists was picked up by no less than five blogs. To see the links, please scroll to the end of this newsletter.
In addition, a piece by one of our writers about her current run for parliament explores vote-selling, traveling through provinces, and the poverty of the nomadic Kuchis. Another writer describes getting caught in a firefight while enroute from Kandahar to Kabul. Don't miss other strong pieces highlighted below. Your comments (on the website) always mean a lot to our writers.
AWWP also received a bit of ink: Kay B Day wrote about us in Writer Mag.Com, "Now that AWWP exists, it is possible the words of these women may one day change the world." And in the newsletter of Awakening the Eco-Soul, Mary Reynolds Thompson recommended visiting the site and leaving a message. Click the links for the full articles.
Just In: Author/activist Melissa Pritchard, to whom AWWP is forever indebted for her founding of the Ashton Goodman Grant, sent an email with the following news: "Even in challenging economic times, donations continue to come in for The Ashton Goodman Grant. I offer a great thank you to each of you who has given to further the writing, education and literacy of Afghan women and girls through the Afghan Women's Writing Project. This past month, the staff at 'O' Magazine held a book sale, raising over $1,000, and in five weeks' time, Pamela dePass organized a benefit dinner in Dover, Delaware, raising over $2,500! Also attorney Kathleen Fick has offered her legal services pro bono to help AWWP. A wholehearted thank you to everyone!!"
Socks! Remember warm clothing sent by afghans for Afghans mentioned in last month's newsletter? Well, the hand-knitted socks landed safely in Kabul. They will be presented to our writers at a September gathering. However, Tina and Tahmina could not resist taking a peek and have reported that "they are indeed the most beautiful and colorful hand-knitted socks we have ever seen."
Rachel de Baere hosted AWWP's Freshta at the International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG) Conference in Rhode Island. Everyone was duly impressed with Freshta's gentle presence and gift of poetry and prose. After a rousing success in the Ocean State, Freshta headed to the Big Apple, where she was a keynote speaker for the BlogHer2010 and one of the four recipients of a BlogHer scholarship.
AWWP is wistfully saying a fond farewell and thank you to author and journalist Christina Asquith following a six-month tenure as Director. She did much in that short time to help AWWP and its writers.
Rachel de Baere has agreed to step in as Acting Director while AWWP forms a board. With nearly a year-long involvement in AWWP, Rachel brings a wealth a knowledge and experience to this position. In addition to Workshop Director for IWWG, Rachel has over twenty years of experience working with not-for-profit organizations, including the Victim Services Agency of New York, Family Service of Westchester, the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, the Child Abuse Prevention Center of Westchester County and Books Behind Bars. She also has Master's in Public Administration from New York University.
Please enjoy the Editors' Picks of the Month, highlighted below.
Running for Parliament, Afghan Style
The Kuchis are very poor and hungry. Most are not educated and will vote as their elders tell them. And most of the elders do business with the candidates. They say, "Okay, we will vote for you, but then you have to pay us." As I understand, the rate for one vote is the equivalent of two and a half dollars
We sat there for ten minutes when suddenly a vast explosion occurred, the sky was covered with dark smoke, and our ears deafened. The explosion seemed as loud as an atomic bomb. We could see big objects like parts of vehicles and human bodies flying. Thanks to almighty Allah that we left our bus when we did.
At the beginning and end of each conversation I would ask for a laptop. Sometimes my conversations with him were only one word: laptop, laptop. Three weeks passed and I got a letter from my father. When I opened the envelope, there was a picture of a nice laptop. My father wrote a short note: "I am sorry. Laptops are expensive here."
When my name was called, I found myself standing in front of almost two hundred people. I began to feel so nervous that I even forgot to smile. I could hear my heart beat like a bird trying to escape a cage. At the side of the stage, I noticed some of my teachers. On the other side stood Massud, smiling stupidly as if waiting to witness my failure.
Being a woman journalist in Afghanistan can be extremely dangerous. Women who venture into that field routinely face harassment and threats, and have sometimes been killed. The dangers have resulted in fewer women studying to become journalists. But the new center hopes to counter this trend.
Meg Waite Clayton is the author of The Wednesday Sisters, a National Bestseller, and the forthcoming The Four Ms. Bradwells.
The experience I'm having mentoring in the Afghan Women's Writing Project is amazing. The experiences these women have been through are extraordinary. Their stories are so emotionally powerful and compelling. Their prose and poetry is often lyrical. I'm quite sure I've learned as much from them as they have from me. And the idea that I might be helping their stories find voice is more satisfying than I imagined. Maria Espinosa is a novelist, poet, and translator as well as a teacher. Her publications include four novels: Incognito: Journey of a Secret Jew, Dark Plums, Longing, which received an American Book Award,and Dying Unfinished. She has also published two collections of poems, Love Feelings, and Night Music, and a translation of George Sand's novel, Lelia.
Working with these women has been a profoundly moving experience. They write with enormous honesty and bravery within the confines of a society that is oppressive to women in the extreme. Yet they are still capable of tenderness and poetic revery.
Some must depend on a male escort for access to the internet, as often women are not welcome or even safe in public places. Despite this male dominant culture and the cruelty of the Taliban with its increasing power, they describe individual men -- fathers, husbands, brothers-- who are kind and loving.
As I have learned more of the incredibly difficult conditions of women in Afghan society, I have developed immense admiration, respect, and fondness for the women with whom I have had the privilege of working. Their writings focus world-wide attention on what has been too long ignored and pushed into the shadows.
For more information on the Afghan Women's Writing Project please contact:
The Afghan Women's Writing Project was begun as a way to allow the voices of Afghan women - too often silenced - to enter the world directly, without any mediation. This project is possible only because of the outstanding American women authors and teachers who generously donate their time and energy as mentors. Additionally, the tireless contributions of these volunteers: Jeff Lyons, Creative Outreach Director StefanCooke, Webmaster and website designer
Jordan Schneider, Online Magazine Editing Coordinator
Elisabeth Lehr, Workshop Program Coordinator
Rachel de Baere, Online Magazine Poetry Editor
Tahmina Popal and Tina Singleton, Liaisons in Afghanistan Kathleen Rafiq and Heidi Levine, Photography Valerie Wallace, Facebook and Newsletter Coordinator
Our inspiring partners are SOLA and the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation; please visit their websites.
Online Donations for Afghan Women Writers:
Many of our students and women writers, especially outside of Kabul, cannot get to an Internet cafe due to security considerations. A laptop at home and a jump drive would allow them to write their pieces, and then ask a male relative to send the work at an Internet cafe. A $20 donation will buy a flash drive and $500 in donations will buy a laptop for our women writers. No contribution is too small. Thank you for considering it.
The Afghan Women's Writing Project has filed for non-profit with 501 (c) 3 status. Your donation is tax deductible.